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Monday, December 21, 2015

Teach the Controversy


jimf said...

Did you see the history less in yesterday's New York Times?
Political Party Meltdown

The strategists who wanted greater ideological purity
may have gotten more than they bargained for.

DEC. 19, 2015

. . .

With a few notable exceptions, the men who drafted the
American Constitution were much more concerned about the
excesses of power than getting things done. They threaded it
with checks and balances that made it easy for a determined
opposition to stop any agenda. They considered
parties to be an inherent evil.

Once they stepped down from the picture frame and walked
into the hurly-burly of actual political life, though,
the founding fathers spent much of their time hiring professional
slanderers to accuse one another of treason, malfeasance and

Nor did they stop at libel. When their dominance was threatened,
John Adams and his Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts
of 1798, which tried to limit immigration and made malicious
criticism of the president a felony. Thomas Jefferson’s
Democratic-Republicans responded with the doctrine of
“nullification,” claiming the right of the states to simply
ignore any national laws they thought infringed on their sovereignty.

The political was always personal and often dangerous. . .

Politicians of the highest rank — DeWitt Clinton, Sam Houston,
Andrew Jackson — routinely fought duels, and sometimes murdered one
another. . .

Things tended to get done only when one party, like the Federalists
or the Whigs, was driven almost entirely out of government. . .

The Constitution had been written to accommodate slavery, but slavery
further bolstered the gridlock already written into the system. . .

All this was followed by the ultimate party deadlock: In two wrenching
conventions in 1860, the Democratic Party split and offered two
regional candidates for president. This ensured the election of
Abraham Lincoln, and ushered in the Civil War, which killed not
just some political party but one in every 40 Americans.

The old system began to change only after the war. . .

Both major parties now had their own liberal and conservative wings,
creating what were in effect four major parties. . .

This arrangement defied pretty much every civics textbook, every
political theorist’s idea of how government should function. It was
also when our national government began to work. From roughly
1900 to 1990, when this “four-party system” was in existence,
the United States emerged as the world’s leading power and reached
its economic zenith. . .

Dale Carrico said...

Most representative constitutional governments established in the aftermath of our own experiment have eschewed the idiosyncrasies of our system owing to the Founders' facile anti-partisan fetish and implemented parliamentary systems instead -- very much to their benefit for the most part. Basic administrative functions should be professionalized. The Senate Leader and House Speaker should be of the party of the Executive, and (if necessary, multiparty, multifaction) coalitions should form to support the implementation of the platform in the service of which the Executive are elected, else the government has no confidence.

"Divided Government" is dysfunctional, depressive of participation, and confuses the necessary of assignment of responsibility for policy outcomes. The Founders were wrong and we're stuck with their mistake.

And we ARE stuck with it: much like quixotic third-party fantasies, in which the politics to create a viable third party to solve certain very real pathologies of our duopoly are harder to achieve than to solve those parties through and in spite of the duopoly, so too the politics to create a parliamentary system to solve certain very real pathologies of the anti-factionalist quirks of our Constitution are harder to achieve than to solve those parties through and in spite of the quirks of our anti-factionalist Constitution.

jimf said...
Rise of Donald Trump Divides Black Celebrities He Calls His Friends
DEC. 21, 2015

. . .

Not long ago, Donald J. Trump and Russell Simmons were close.

Mr. Simmons, the hip-hop mogul. . . would
fly on Mr. Trump’s private plane to Mar-a-Lago, the real
estate developer’s lavish Florida resort. Mr. Simmons even
had a playful nickname for Mr. Trump: Richie Rich. . .

The billionaire developer has long courted personalities from
sports and entertainment — including the boxer Mike Tyson,
the former N.B.A. star Dennis Rodman, and the rapper and
producer Sean Combs — and has made them part of his world
in strikingly personal ways. . .

While Mr. Simmons has denounced Mr. Trump, others are sticking
by him, saying that they were drawn to him in part because of
his unvarnished personality — and his loyalty — and that they
would not abandon him now.

“Hey, that’s my man. That’s who he is,” said Don King, the
boxing promoter. . . “To me, Donald is Donald. That’s not a presidential
endorsement, but it is a humanistic endorsement.” . . .

Mr. Tyson, who is Muslim, recently defended Mr. Trump. . .
“Hey, listen, anybody that was ever president
of the United States offended some group of people.” . . .

Mr. Trump has long relished the company of famous and
successful people, seeing in their accomplishments a
reflection of his own greatness. . .
He likes to brag about his closeness to celebrities,
once saying of Michael Jackson. . .
“He follows me around, in the sense that he likes what I have.”

Mr. King and others say Mr. Trump tends to size up people
based on whether he sees them as being of his stature,
rather than according to their race.

“What matters to Trump is success,” . . . “If you are achieving
success, you meet the test.” . . .

[S]everal high-profile African-Americans. . . appear torn
about whether Mr. Trump is, at heart, a racist — or whether
he is cynically playing to the anxieties of white Americans
at a time of great demographic change to bolster his political
standing. . .

“I knew him in another life,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson. . .
“I have never seen him in this light before.” . . .

But when asked if Mr. Trump was a racist, Mr. Jackson said,
“I don’t want to use that language.” . . .

[Al] Sharpton said he did not know whether Mr. Trump was racist,
adding, “I don’t think it matters.”

“What he’s saying appeals to racists,” Mr. Sharpton said.
“He’s too smart to not know what he’s doing.” . . .

Loyalty is such a beautiful thing.

jimf said...

Also in today's Times, dissing an American guru:
The 2015 Sidney Awards, Part 2
David Brooks
DEC. 22, 2015

. . .

For centuries Americans have been reading the hyper-individualistic
purity of Henry David Thoreau’s life on Walden Pond — the
way he cut himself off from crass commercialism and lived
on a pure spiritual plane. Writing in The New Yorker,
Kathryn Schulz points out in “Pond Scum”
[ ]
that Thoreau was a misanthropic, arrogant, self-righteous prig.
He was coldhearted in the face of others’ suffering.
Highly ascetic, he sustained the shallow American tendency
to equate eating habits with moral health.

He tried philanthropic enterprises but found they did
“not agree with my constitution.” Schulz accurately notes
that Thoreau’s most famous sentence, “The mass of men
lead lives of quiet desperation,” is at once insufferable
and absurd. . .